County Transit Blues
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by Frank Shortt
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It is hard to fathom why things like this happen, but they do, and more often than one
The mother of a boy named Trent kicked him out of his home, along with his
father, for unspecified reasons. It is supposed that they fought more and more often and Trent could see that his father was taking
the brunt of the situation, thus, siding with him.
The first few days, Trent and his dad,
slept out on a riverbank with only some dirty blankets for comfort. What food they had confiscated on the way only lasted a couple
of days. This was when they turned to the beggarly elements around them for sustenance. The father held a job, but called in sick
the entire time they were living among the down-and-outers on the banks of the Guadalupe.
What they saw down by the river was very disgusting!
Empty wine bottles lay scattered
all about. Most of the people encountered were either intoxicated or high on whatever substance they could wrangle. Trent saw young
ladies, no more than thirteen, probably runaways, going and coming from one makeshift tent to the other. When policemen came to the
area, the children were hidden under dirty blankets until the heat was off. These residents of the ‘hobo jungle’ somehow got word
before the officers arrived. There is a wonderful method of communication in these makeshift camps. Most of the old timers know beforehand
when they are to be removed from the landscape and move on to another site. Food was either stolen, brought in by ‘dumpster divers’,
or bought legitimately by money panhandled near one of the many restaurants in the San Jose area. Sometimes, well-meaning churches
brought food down to the river.
Eating beans out of a can, heated by whatever means could
be imagined, became old hat really quick. Then there was the problem of sanitation and privacy. Their restroom was behind a large
eucalyptus tree down by the riverside. Their bath was a pool with only the slow summer current to purify it from all the other residents
placing their grungy bodies inside. Trent was not too overwhelmed by all this as youth thinks of things as more of an adventure than
grownups. There was very little privacy, simply hanging up a blanket between two bushes as a temporary screen.
Soon, Trent’s dad began to realize that he might be out of sick leave at his job. Along with Trent, they boarded a County Transit
bus that runs back and forth between Menlo Park and San Jose. They became the talk of the bus as they became fixtures at certain hours,
mainly at night. They made sure that the bus ran all night because then they could get a few hours of undisturbed sleep.
During the day, Trent was enrolled in school so that his dad could work his job. Trent was probably no older than ten. Sometimes it
was late before the father could pick him up from school. Very tolerant teachers began taking a day about to babysit Trent, as it
were, and tutoring him on some of the subjects he had fallen behind on. These teachers began putting Trent’s story together as he
would relate the happenings or what had happened on the riverbank. When his father picked him up he and Trent would once more enter
the Transit bus near the school and make sure they got the one that would transfer them back and forth between San Jose and Menlo
Drivers of Transit buses become very tolerant of customers, especially those who
are kind and considerate. Trent and his father were of this type. They would police the bus of trash, when there were no other passengers,
keeping their temporary home spic and span. They soon learned which drivers were generous and which were going strictly by the book.
Some drivers even baby-sat Trent when the father had to disembark to obtain food from one of the fast-food restaurants along the route.
He always made sure that he brought the driver a hamburger or at least a cup of coffee for his labors. Sometimes Trent and his dad
were treated to home-cooked food brought along by one of the drivers from a caring wife.
Trent and his dad were treated to a temporary home by one of the passengers, but had to leave it when the rent became due and Trent’s
dad could not afford it. So, back to the Transit home they went.
Is this story true, you
may ask? Actually, it is based upon a true story that ran in the local paper in San Jose. Some of the events were slightly embellished
to keep the story running. What is the solution to this dilemma? Probably cooperation between the private sector and the business
sector to try and eliminate poverty would help a lot. Meanwhile, if you happen to see a father or mother with a child riding a Transit
bus a great amount, this could be Trent. Please try to cut them a little slack.
She kicked me out, along with Trent
Nobody knows just where we went
Tried living on the river bank
When I saw that, my hopes
Trent and I just boarded a bus
We we’re wond’rin “why all the fuss”.
Back and forth to Menlo Park
Just as soon’s
it is good and dark.
Now the driver’s are used to us
They’re good baby sitters, and plus
They give us all their extra food
they buy is usu’ly good.
They want lil’ Trent to grow up right
They really like that little sprite
Wasn’t for them where would
Prob’ly begging at Burger King.
I don’t know how much longer we
Can keep this up, but we shall see
Trent needs things I cannot
Soon we’ll be taking our last ride.
On that old county transit bus
Oh Lord, what’s to become of us?
Woman of mine
ain’t got a heart
Else she’d never made us depart.
Trent needs clothes, and he’s needin’ shoes
Now we’re singing them Transit blues!